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Tim Easton with Beau Kinstler (Thursday, April 28th, 2005, 400 Bar, Minneapolis)
Tim Easton - Photo by Karla Ludzack

By Karla Ludzack

I haven't had a chance to tell you that Tim Easton puts on a must-see show whenever he's in town. It’s been at least two years since Easton played in Minneapolis, but he has a history of playing here on the first night of his tour whenever he releases a new CD.

This time he doesn't have a new CD to promote; just a bunch of new songs he's planning to record here in town (presumably with Ed Ackerson at Flowers Studio) over the next couple of weeks. If you missed your chance to hear him on Thursday at the 400, you're out of luck for now, but he might be persuaded to make an appearance at one of my local hero's shows next week. His former roommate and bandmate Chris Burney is also in town at the 400 with his band The Sun next Saturday (May 7th), so chances are pretty good that Easton might be in attendance at that show as well.

Opener Beau Kinstler has a regular gig at the 400 every Thursday, so he was the logical choice for the opening slot. But since Kinstler is playing with a full band these days his sound is a little removed from Easton's all acoustic set. Kinstler has a strong voice and some compelling lyrics, but I prefer his solo acoustic act. I've seen him a few times over the past year and I think his acoustic set showcases his songs a little better, and this would also have fit more appropriately with the set Tim Easton played for us Thursday.

By the time Easton hit the stage, all of that was a distant memory. Easton’s music has had a special place in my heart for years. His songs remind me of lost loves, relatives who have passed on, and demonstrate just how good music can be.

Most of the set consisted of new songs which haven't been played live before. As always, these were a special treat intended for his Minneapolis fans. Easton was very polite and appreciative as the audience quietly listened to his new songs. One song, which will probably be called "Let Me Be Next To You" was played early in the set and sounds like a potential hit for the singer-songwriter.

I have gotten to hear this song a couple times over the last year or so; most recently at the New West party at SXSW; it is instantly accessible and gorgeous. I know that hearing nothing but new songs all night sounds like kind of drag for a fan who might not be familiar with them, but it was far from it. Easton is an amazing guitar and harp player, and just having the opportunity to watch him play was enough to make the audience sit quietly and pay attention throughout the set.

The show, however, was woefully ill-attended. I know there were a lot of shows to pick from Thursday night, and I don't mind avoiding a big crowd, but I find it painful that more people don't come to see Easton’s kind of talent. I first got hooked on his guitar playing when I saw him open for Mark Eitzel at the 400 a few years ago. Even though Eitzel’s set was a bit of a train wreck that night, Easton made the evening more than worthwhile, and his apologies for Eitzel’s behavior the next time he came to town made up for that night.

Easton also threw in a few old songs, including “Bitters Past,” an old Haynes Boys tune, which was his old band with Chris Burney. I understand the Haynes Boys CDs are pretty hard to find, so if you see one in a used bin somewhere, you should definitely pick it up. Later in the set, he also took a few requests, including “Carry Me,” “Lexington Jail,” and “All The Pretty Girls Leave Town.” He also threw in a couple of amazing old blues tunes. His history as a busker in Europe gave him plenty of time to learn and appreciate a lot of old songs, and that connection with the past makes him an even better songwriter.

Last time Easton came to town, we got a 20-minute Beatles jam. This time the show was decidedly different, but still amazing.

Karla Ludzack is